Communication Resources 


Memorandums and Their Uses


TO:  All Readers


FROM:  The Channing L. Bete Communication Center


DATE:  10.14.06


SUBJECT:  Memorandums and Their Uses


Memos are used within a company or organization to report information, make a request, or recommend an action; although in some places, they have been replaced by emails.


Aspects of the Well-Formatted Memo


  • Memos do not need either salutations or closings
  • Memos never use indented paragraphs
  • Subject lines are required as part of the header
  • Headings and subheadings are optional; if using a heading ensure that it covers all information included until the next heading
  • Align all headings with the left margin
  • The first paragraph should not have a separate heading

Organizing Informative and Positive Memos 

  • Give good news and summarize main points
  • Give details, explanations, and background information
  • Present any negative elements as positively as possible
  • Explain reader benefits
  • Use a personalized ending that shifts emphasis from the focus of the message back to the reader in a positive manner

Organizing Negative Memos 

When the memo is addressed to a superior use the following outline: 


  • Describe the problem clearly and unemotionally
  • Explain how the problem occurred by providing background information and state underlying factors relating to the problem
  • Describe the best options for fixing the problem; if more than one option exists, describe all options with their advantages and disadvantages
  • Recommend a solution and ask for action or approval to make the necessary changes

When the negative memo is addressed to peers and subordinates the following outline is appropriate:


  • Describe the problem clearly and unemotionally
  • Present an alternative or compromise, if one is available
  • If possible, ask for input and/or action; if your subordinates or peers are part of the decision-making process they are more likely to accept the consequences

Organizing Persuasive Memos


  • Use a positive subject line

  • Start by establishing common ground between the writer and reader
  • When giving reasons for why changes are needed, show an understanding of the reader's problems
  • Explain what needs to be done concisely and clearly and use formatting that emphasizes the point, such as bullets
  • Address the reader as an equal who can help in solving the problem
  • Link the action to the benefits and picture the problem being solved

The One Page Memo 

Occasionally, you may be asked to write a memo that is only one page long, although your information requires more space.  In such a case, careful revising and editing may help you fit all your data on one page.  However, if condensing the information does not help, put all the key points on one well-designed page and attach appendices with extra information for those readers who are interested.


More Information




Locker, Kitty O. (2006). Business and Administrative Communication

           New York:  McGraw-Hill.